McGregor’s theory X and Y

PSYCH-105 Industrial Psychology

Chapter 5: Motivation

Unit 1

Unit 2

Unit 3

Unit 4


McGregor’s Theory X and Y

Douglas McGregor (1967)

McGregor worked entirely on different hypothesis and sought an answer to motivation in the nature of man. Theory X and Y reflect McGregor’s efforts in understanding human motivation vis-a-vis the nature of the person. `Theory X’ and `Theory Y’ are quite different, almost poles apart and have different sets of assumptions. Theory X identifies the four assumptions held by the managers as: 

  • Employees inherently dislike work. Therefore if possible, they try to avoid it.
  • As they dislike work, they must be coerced or threatened with punishment. Such control, will force them to achieve desired goals.
  • Employees generally shirk responsibilities. They prefer to seek formal directions.
  • Most employees want security as against other factors related to work. They do not have much ambition.

According to McGregor this is a traditional theory of what workers are like and what management should do to manage work. The assumptions contained in theory X do not reveal the true nature of human being in practices. So he gave another set of assumptions called theory Y. Theory Y identifies four other assumptions held by the managers as:

  • Employees view work as being as natural as rest or play.
  • Employees will exercise self direction and self control when they are committed to the goals.
  • The average person can learn to accept and can even seek responsibility.
  • The capacity to exercise a high degree of imagination, ingenuity, and creativity in the solution of organizational problems is widely, not narrowly distributed in the worker population.

Implications of the Two-Factor Theory

In support to the assumptions embodied in theory Y, McGregor has cited a few practices wherein the subordinates are given freedom to direct their activities to assume responsibility and importantly to satisfy their egoistic needs. These practices include decentralization and delegation, job enlargement participation and consultative management and management by objectives.

Advantages / Merits / Pro’s

  1. These theories are important tools in understanding the behaviour of human being and in designing incentives to motivate employees.
  2. Theory X is applicable to unskilled and uneducated operative workers whereas theory Y is more applicable to skilled and educated employees who are mature enough and understand their responsibility.

Disadvantages / Limitations / Demerits / Con’s

  1. There is no proof that either of these assumptions is valid.
  2. No man would belong exclusively either to theory X or theory Y. He shares the traits of both in varying degrees under different situations.

Author – Dr. Niyati Garg

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